To evaluate the level and factors affecting control of diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes (TYPE 2 DM) patients. Multicentre cross-sectional study: a sample of 430 primary care practices across Spain selected 1907 type 2 diabetic patients. The first five consecutive ambulatory patients with TYPE 2 DM were eligible for the inclusion into the survey. Patients were free of known cardiovascular disease (CVD). Control criteria were defined based on 2002 American Diabetes Association (ADA) clinical practice recommendations. A total of 1907 patients (51% women) aged 63 +/- 9 years. Smoking prevalence was 22.6%, 50.6% had levels of A1c < 7%. Mean blood pressure (BP) was 148 +/- 17/86 +/- 10 mmHg. Only 7.8% have achieved the target of BP < 130/80 mmHg. Among the 1180 patients (65%) treated for hypertension, this target was attained in only 4.4% of patients. A measurement for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was available in 1669 patients (88%). Only 5.9% of patients achieved the target of LDL < 100 mg/dl. Among the 638 patients (41.6%) on drug treatment for dyslipidaemia, this target was attained in only 5.6% of patients. Among type 2 diabetic patients in Spain the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors is high. Control of glycaemia, smoking, BP and LDL are far from optimal despite the widespread use of guidelines for the management of diabetes and CVD. The application of published recommendations needs to be reinforced.